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'Smart bandage' diagnoses danger before infection takes hold

Imagine placing an adhesive bandage on a cut and having the bandage tell you immediately that dangerous bacteria have gotten into the wound and that you need to seek a doctor's help.

Researchers at the University of Rochester have taken the first major step toward a bandage that will change color depending on what kind of bacteria may be present in a wound. It can give an instant diagnosis as to whether the wound may require special care or what kind of antibiotics may work best in treating it. The bandage is part of the Center for Future Health's "smart medical home"-a series of devices working in conjunction in the home to monitor a family's health.

Benjamin Miller, assistant professor of chemistry at the University, and Philippe Fauchet, professor and chair of electrical and computer engineering, have devised a sand-grain sized wafer that can differentiate between two classes of bacteria, called Gram-positive and Gram-negative.

The sensor, the first substantial improvement in identifying Gram-positive and negative bacteria since Hans Christian Joachim Gram developed the original staining technique in 1884, is reported in the upcoming issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

The accomplishment is evidence that it's indeed possible to accurately identify bacteria with a silicon sensor, spurring Miller's team to expand the research to several other types of bacteria, including salmonella, listeria and enteropathogenic E. coli, all of which can cause serious disease in humans.

Today, if a doctor needs to identify whether a bacterial infection is of the Gram positive or negative variety, the bacteria need to be stained and examined under a microscope. "The Gram stain has been an important tool in analyzing bacteria for more than a century, but it's amazing to me that we're still using a procedure that's effectively out of the Stone Age," says Miller. "We can now get the same information immediately, at home or in the
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Contact: Jonathan Sherwood
jsherwood@admin.rochester.edu
716-273-4726
University of Rochester
1-Nov-2001


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